Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.
The great dog urine debate
So you’ve managed to score one of SF’s elusive pet-friendly apartments (congratulations!) or own your own home and have decided to get a dog. One of the first things you’ll have to contend with is their need to eliminate waste—unlike cats, some of whom can be trained to use a toilet, dogs prefer to unload on a flat surface.
If you have a tiny or elderly pet and enough space to keep things sanitary, pee pads can be a good interim solution (pro tip: the same pads you’ll pay big bucks for at the pet store are also sold for a fraction of that price as “underpads” in your local big box drug store’s elder care/incontinence aisle). But most people with dogs will want to take them outdoors for numbers one and two. And therein lies the proverbial rub.
In an article posted this week to the SF-founded publication Dogster, animal behaviorist Emily Kane warns dog guardians that their pet’s urine (specifically, the nitrates contained therein) can be fatal to trees. Big boys are the worst, says Kane:
The main thing that makes dog urine more damaging is volume. Large dogs deposit more urine. Females tend to deposit it all in one location. Male dogs are easier on the grass but hard on trees, where urine sprayed on the trunk can filter down to the roots and in large enough volumes can kill the entire plant.
To avoid pee-related forest demise, Kane advises that guardians “steer Fido to a lamppost rather than a tree,” advice that followers of SF news will raise an eyebrow at.
As you likely recall, it was less than two years ago that a San Francisco lamppost was so weakened by what the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission was an excess of dog urine fell onto and crushed a car, narrowly missing the driver.
“We encourage people and dogs alike to do their business in other places, like a proper restroom or one of our fire hydrants, which are stronger and made out of cast iron,” SFPUC spokesperson Tyrone Jue said at the time.
Got that, dog walkers of San Francisco? Don’t allow your charges to pee on light poles or trees, but fire hydrants are just fine until we learn that they, too, are not. (And while you’re at it, don’t really let your cat use the toilet, as toxins in their feces are sickening animals that live in the ocean and Bay.)
Hall of Justice issues
San Francisco’s Hall ofJustice isn’t just one of the city’s most unfortunate looking buildings. It’s also a structure that’s so dilapidated that San Francisco Administrator Naomi Kelly calls it, “seismically unsafe” noting that it “has had recent problems with raw sewage seeping between its floors.’
Kelly hopes to fully empty the building, home to much of SF’s law and order-type functions, by 2019.
Piece by piece, departments are indeed leaving the structure, which “suffers from asbestos, lead paint, pests, rodents, sewage leaks, power outages, flooding, consistently broken elevators,” a letter from city employee labor unions to Mayor Ed Lee read in early 2017. One of the first to move was the San Francisco Police Department’s headquarters, which opened its new Mission Bay facility in March of 2015.
Soon it will be the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s time to go, as funding from 2014-s voter-approved “City of San Francisco Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond” has enabled the beleaguered department to move into new digs later this year.
In a video posted to YouTube Thursday, the medical examiner’s office details some of the challenges of their outdated space (perhaps most chillingly, “too little decedent storage”) and looks to their future space. Since it’s unlikely you’ll be aware of much if/when you visit the facility, this is your big chance to see what it’ll be like inside the new $65 million, 46,000-square-foot facility at One Newhall Street.
Why don’t you bike share?
With the news that San Francisco’s “stationless” bike share companies (that is, the businesses that don’t used fixed docks where riders pick up and drop off bikes) must pay as much as $19,558 a year in city permits, you might wonder if there are enough riders to keep such heavily-taxed businesses afloat. But according to a Portland State University report published this month, as long as SF has plenty of privileged people with money, bike share is likely to flourish.
PSU researchers surveyed 1,885 residents of Philadelphia, Chicago, and Brooklyn, comparing their income and racial demographics. Based on that data, they say that:
Significant portions of the population are underrepresented among bike share users, including people of color, along with lower-income, female, older adults and less-educated groups. Lack of bike share stations in neighborhoods with people of color and/or lower incomes is one factor, but does not completely explain the disparities in use. Cost, lack of payment options, lack of bank and credit cards accounts, and lack of familiarity with bike sharing are other potential barriers to people in these communities.
As opposed to writing bike share off as a luxury to be enjoyed by those who can afford it, PSU researchers say that this iniquity can and should be mitigated, as “bicycling and bike share have the potential to benefit disadvantaged communities by providing new options for accessing transit and jobs, while also providing an opportunity for recreation and physical activity.” (You can read their full report here.)
Bike share companies seeking to launch their services in San Francisco’s disadvantaged communities will face heavy costs of their own, Streetsblog SF reported this week. As of July 1, SF bike share companies that allow riders to drop off bikes in spots other than official docks must fill out this nine-page permit application and pay fees beginning at $12,208 (for companies with fewer that 500 bikes) and topping out at nearly $20K for businesses with 3500 or more bikes. The permit must be renewed annually, with fees then dropping around $2000 per category. You can see the fee breakdown here.